Isaacson, Walter (2017) Leonardo Da Vinci. Simon & Schuster. A comprehensive biography of an artist and creative genius who was obsessed with knowledge. Leonardo was a “man without letters” and a “disciple of experience”. Anatomy was his abiding specialism but his natural curiosity led him to pursue ‘enthusiasms’ across multiple disciplines. He was insatiable in his imagination, a perfectionist, a social misfit, a procrastinator, often distracted, erratic in his work habits and in his fulfilment of commissions. This huge (and very heavy book) is intelligently organised and beautifully illustrated. Isaacson’s strength is that he lifts the veil and tells a warts and all human story. Grand. Rating: 8.5/10.
Morris, Paula (2017) False River: Stories, Essays, Secret Histories. Penguin. Although I’m not an avid fan of short stories this diverse collection with its mixture of fiction and essays was well worth the effort. Morris takes us on journey of obsessions, personal reflections, and imagination, ranging across the world. Brilliant little interludes include False River (the book’s title and an oxbow lake in Louisiana) about a man unhappily reunited with his wife post-Katrina, Rocky Ridge which explores Laura Ingalls Wilder’s co-dependent relationship with her daughter Rose, Women, Still Talking an intimate memoir of the power of words, and a Hurricane Katrina experience in City to be Abandoned. An eclectic and inviting collection. Rating: 8.5/10.
Benjamin, Chloe (2018) The Immortalists. Putnam. A travelling psychic who claims to be able to tell the day you will die caught the attention of the four Gold children. Her prophecies inform their future – if you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life? We follow the siblings over 50 years as they come to terms with their prophecy. Simon and Klara use the date as an incentive to pursue their wildest dreams, whilst Daniel and Varya are limited by a date that is quite far out. The novel probes matters related to destiny and choice, reality and fantasy, and morality and immortality. Thoughtful and unpredictable. Rating 8.5/10.
Steiner, Susie (2017) Persons Unknown. Borough. Press. Mother-to-be DI Manon Bradshaw takes an casual interest in a murder that is being investigated by her colleagues at the Cambridgeshire police force, but she soon becomes involved when she finds that both the victim and prime suspect are linked to her. When her workmates close ranks she sets about saving her beloved adopted son and solving a multi-layered mystery. Intrepid second outing for dysfunctional detective DI Manon. Rating: 8/10.
Moyes, Jojo (2018) Still Me. M. Joseph. The continuing saga of irrepressible Lou Clark the star of Me before You as she bumbles her way through work, life and love in New York. Lou leaves her family and boyfriend Sam for a job opportunity in the world of the super-rich, but as she navigates her way through drama and heartache she comes to a realisation about her own dreams and ambitions. Comfortable and sappy, but it’s time for Louisa to go into retirement. Rating: 7/10.
Shriver, Lionel (2017) The Standing Chandelier. Borough Press. The proposition behind this novella is – can men and women ever be just friends? Frisk and Baba have been friends, and on-off lovers, since university, but their intimate bond is a threat to his new fiancee – Frisk must go! When Frisk presents an unusual hand-crafted personal sculpture as a wedding gift it becomes the catalyst for exploring the nature of friendship, possession and the conditions of love. Pitiless and eloquent. Great read. Rating: 9/10.